As the first day of school on Aug. 14 approaches, Clark County School District educators are getting ready to open six new schools across the valley, including Mathis Elementary School near Arville Street and Windmill Lane.
The 100,000-square-foot building is based on the Duncan Elementary School (of North Las Vegas) floor plan, with an additional 30,000 square feet to accommodate growth and full-day kindergarten . The school is expected to open with over 800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Mathis has capacity for up to 850 students and will relieve overcrowding at five nearby elementary schools, according to district officials.
Taking the reins at Mathis is principal Joseph Rekrut, a 25-year veteran of the district. This is the third elementary school he’s helped open; Rekrut opened Ries Elementary in 2005 and Stuckey Elementary in 2010.
Rekrut and other school officials interviewed 310 teachers for 32 positions at Mathis, he said.
“We have assembled a dynamic team of educators,” Rekrut said. “They’re the ones that are going to make this work.”
Mathis has two buildings linked by a courtyard that’s locked on both ends. The front building, where the main entrance is , houses the multipurpose room, lunch room, administrative offices and kindergarten classrooms. The two-story back building houses first through fifth grades, a second-floor library and an outdoor patio.
One of Rekrut’s favorite things about the school design is the courtyard; he sees potential for outdoor events during the fall and spring.
Rekrut is also excited about the school’s computer labs. As the district moves to online standardized testing, labs like those at Mathis that hold up to 70 computers are expected to make the process “much easier.”
“Its all hooked up and beautiful and ready to go,” Rekrut said as he walked by the dormant machines. “All we need is some kids now.”
The school’s namesake
Dr. Beverly S. Mathis loves children. A Tennessee native, Mathis attended the University of Tennessee and began her teaching career in the small town of Bradford before moving to Clark County in 1976.
Her husband, former district athletic director Ray Mathis, brought the couple out to Las Vegas after being stationed at Nellis Air Force Base. After three years in the airforce he joined the district as a physical education teacher. Ray Mathis retired last year after 38 years with the district.
Beverly Mathis taught in elementary and middle schools in the district for 17 years before serving as an assistant principal for three years. She then became principal of Booker Elementary for 16 years.
While at Booker, Mathis introduced the Gents and Lads program, which had residents provide male role models for the school’s African-Americanboys.
Mathis is also the recipient of the 2000 Professional Black Women’s Alliance Rose Award, the 2002 Distinguished Women in Southern Nevada Award and the Nevada Association of School Boards 2010 School Administrator of the Year Award.
After retiring in 2011, Mathis joined The Public Education Foundation as vice president of early learning, literacy and family engagement. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and at UNLV.
When the school district called for nominations to name new elementary schools, Mathis’ daughters put her name in the pool. Names were picked from 15 finalists Jan. 26.
According to the district, new schools are named for outstanding former employees or trustees “who have demonstrated exceptional leadership locally in the field of education and have consistently demonstrated the character to inspire students,” or those outside the education field who “serve as a positive role model to children and to the community.”
“I’m just grateful that I’m one of those people,” Mathis said.
While the school was under construction, she attended construction meetings and drove past the school every day, she said.
“It’s a beautiful facility, but much more than that, it is a facility that is just great for teaching and learning,” Mathis said.
Mathis plans on spending as much time as she can volunteering at her namesake school.
“It’s going to be a happy place,” Mathis said. “That’s what education is all about.”
By the numbers
Project budget: $28.38 million
Student capacity: 850
Construction start: May 2016
Construction completion: May 2017
Total school district enrollment in 2016-17: 322,770
Project enrollent in 2017-18: 323,000
Clark County School District